RE/TRANSLATION: LAND & LANGUAGE at A Space Gallery ( 401 Richmond West), to November 23. 416-979-9633. Rating: NNN
Canadian Aboriginal artists focus on the big issues of motherland and mother tongue in this A Space show - with varying degrees of success.
Peter Morin 's painting of mouth-like pebble shapes arranged like letters in a row equates geological and written forms, and his delicate drawings of crows hanging above basins of water and river stones subtly evoke his northern BC community and its mythology.
A traditional leather doll sits watching a small video of artist Jude Norris making her. Writing on the doll's dress in English and Cree ("I am perfect just as I am," "There is no word for perfection in Cree.") adds a personal intervention to the ancient craft, an intervention that's absent from Strong Woman Dress, a standard traditional buckskin garment on which Norris projects media photos of native women.
A fascinating story lies behind Rebecca Baird 's Lost Bird. A large image of a sad-faced child is painted not very expressively on the wall, and beside it hangs a line of red beaded children's mittens representing the many other children lost. The work itself lacks the impact of the narrative you can read at www.sdpb. org/tv/oto/lostbird about the baby who survived the Wounded Knee massacre and was adopted by a general and his suffragist wife.
Best known as a photographer (his photos of churches accompanied the AGO's recent Emily Carr show), Arthur Renwick contributes a barely perceptible wall installation. He surrounds the Bible quote "And the word was..." with the names of West Coast Aboriginal languages; done in shiny, transparent lettering, they're like persistent ghosts hovering on the verge of consciousness.
In the hallway windows, Daryl James Bucar 's colourful, childlike oil pastels take a journey through stereotypes and anger to a place of reconnection. Though none of these works is a real knockout, taking the ideas the show plays with into new realms, they are all interesting efforts by artists worth watching.